03 Mar 3/3/19 “Money: Cirrhosis of the Giver”
The title is something I don’t like talking about very often. If you come here regularly, you know I don’t talk about it often. It’s probably one of my least favorite subjects, but it’s very important. It’s very important in the life of the believer, and the topic is “Money: Cirrhosis of the Giver.” I heard Tony Evans mention that this week on the Westside Christian Radio Network, and I said, “I’m taking that title.” Cirrhosis of the giver. Many of you know what cirrhosis is; it is cirrhosis of the liver, and through a disease, through alcoholism (it’s really an inflammatory disease), the liver begins to deal with the toxic elements of disease or junk food, alcohol, and different things, and it begins to build up calluses, cirrhosis, on the liver, and it can’t function. They don’t think there is a cure for it, however I read yesterday that Science Daily has a whole article on how fasting help fights fatty liver disease. There you go—fasting.
I read in the Bible how giving helps fight “stingy-giver” disease. It’s an interesting topic because I don’t know how many of you are aware, but in the 1950s and 1960s, people had a high view of the role of the pastor. Now it’s about 30 percent, where it’s down there with the used-car salesman. Not against used-car salesmen or attorneys—I know people who are both, and they come to this church, but we’re down there in that camp because of financial mismanagement, because of the scandals that you read about in the newspaper. What breaks my heart is you do see scandals in the news, but you don’t see the thousands and thousands of other faithful people, and they try to blanket everyone under that umbrella.
Money is an interesting topic. You have to handle it like you handle explosives in the church—very carefully. It’s an area where there has to be accountability. And we need to talk about it because it’s a wonderful servant, but it’s a terrible master. It’s a wonderful servant. I would encourage you to utilize it, to earn it, to save it, to use it to your advantage to further God’s kingdom, but it’s a terrible master when it begins to master you. The reason I’m talking about it is we are in the series “The Bible Doesn’t Say That,” and there’s a big movement out there: “the name it and claim it,” the prosperity gospel; “if you just believe it, you’ll receive it”; “God wants you to be wealthy, and wealth is the sign of a mature believer.”
The hard part is that that gospel isn’t going to fly in the majority of the world, in Third World countries where Christians are persecuted. What they’ll do is take a truth, and I can show you, a whole chapter, like Deuteronomy 28, where God will bless people, and He often blesses them financially. And poverty can be a curse. It can be. God will begin to take, and it can be a curse. But it’s not always the case. You can’t just take a Scripture and say, “See here, God always wants to prosper you. We should all live on Courts Hill Mountain in gated communities and drive expensive cars and have lots of money.”
Actually, money keeps people from heaven. It’s hard for the rich man to enter heaven. It’s a very hard balancing act because you can’t serve both God and mammon. If you’re serving money, you’re not serving God. You can’t serve both of those masters. It’s a good reminder too, I heard a song this morning: “Jesus, you don’t owe me anything. I just want all of you.” God doesn’t owe us anything, and if we look at this, really, everything we have is whose? God’s. So it’s really about stewardship, how we steward the things that are given to us.
Now I’m going to look directly at God’s Word this morning. Hope that’s okay with you.
Also under this title “The Bible Doesn’t Say That,” many people believe or they say, “Give to get,” and that’s a wrong position of our heart. “Okay, Lord, I’m giving this, and You better give back.” I’ve been at events (I don’t go to them anymore as much) where the people just talk about “Come on, I know there’s a hundred of you who can give a thousand dollars today. Sow that thousand-dollar seed, and you will receive ten thousand back this year. Sow that seed! Come on, who’s with me? Raise your hand if you can give a thousand today. I know God’s going to bless you!” And you start giving to get, and it really skews your view of God and of giving. Giving must come from a cheerful heart, not really expecting anything in return. It’s hard because sometimes when we give and we give, we expect “Come on, God,”—you know, it’s a struggle of the flesh, that you’re expecting something in return.
I’m going to use the NIV this morning. I’m going to get emails just on that version right there. And if you’re interested, I do have an hour-long message on “How We Got Our Bible” on our website. I spent an hour on the different translations: NIV, ESV, New American Standard, New King James, the King James, dynamic equivalence versus formal equivalence, textus receptus versus the received text, and all the different things that people want to debate. But you can watch that. It’s an hour long. It will show you that you will not be led astray by reading certain Bibles that are good Bibles. They’re just from different schools of text. But I prefer the New King James or the New American Standard as being a little bit more literal, but that’s a whole different topic.
So anyway, 2 Corinthians, let’s just put some Scriptures on the board. Cirrhosis of the giver—how can we prevent that?
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)
So this needs to be something that we remember too: God can bless us. I believe God wants to bless His children, but we automatically equate a big bank account to a blessing. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a smooth-running home, healthy children, washers and dryers that work, house that’s not falling apart, get a car paid off and enjoy the other one, and just the blessings of God, the fruitfulness, the abundant life. It doesn’t have to be one million dollars in the bank account. This is a topic that’s going to hit all areas because we have people here, that attend here, that are on assisted living, food stamps and different things, and there are other people I know that are millionaires. So where do you find that balance? It’s all a condition of the heart. See, we put monetary value: “Okay, God’s going to bless me; that means by this year, I’m hoping to have $100,000, $500,000, $1 million in the bank account so I can retire.”
Listen, I know people with a lot of money who are miserable. I could quote actor after actress after political figure. They’re empty, but they’ve got what the world would say is incredible. And as much as I love people like say, Michael Jordan or different sports figures, if you look at interviews later in their lives, they are not very happy. They’ve been in that position, even idolatry in some forms if we’re not careful, and they have this view of life. You have to be careful because we put the amount on things, but God looks at the heart. God will bless us. Didn’t He bless the children of Israel walking through the wilderness? Their shoes did not wear out. There was food from heaven. There was quail meat when they desired it. There was water out of the rock. He protected them. Were they all millionaires, or was His blessing enough abundantly? So I believe that God will bless His people. Don’t let the prosperity gospel rob you of that. I believe in the blessings of God; God will bless His people.
But first, we have to look at what the Bible says about blessing. A blessing: the fruit of the womb is a blessing. We live in a nation where they want 1.7 children. I think the thing that shocks me the most about having another child is so many people go, “Five?!” People look at me like, “Five? How do you do it? What are you thinking? You’ve lost your mind.” But if you look at it as a blessing from the Lord and what God wants. We’ve shifted from eight, nine, ten, eleven children fifty-six years ago to now two children because it’s comfortable. It’s convenient. Selfishness is ruling that decision, not any other motive, I believe. Well, let’s have our two so we get on with our life.
I hear that more than anything, and it does break my heart. I know what people are saying. Who doesn’t enjoy a good vacation while the kids are with the babysitter? I got it. I’m with you. But children are a blessing from the Lord. And for those who aren’t able to bear children right yet, it’s not a curse. It’s not always a curse. People think that. It can be in the Old Testament, but it’s not. Often sometimes a person might not be able to have a child, and it’s drawing them to the Lord. Somebody else might be struggling with cancer; it’s drawing them to the Lord. For someone else who’s struggling with mental challenges; it’s forcing them to the Lord. We all have struggles in different areas, so do not beat yourself up in that area.
We also read from Deuteronomy that God would give crops and livestock as blessings. Well, that doesn’t apply to many of us. But what is crops? Bumper harvest—you would plant seeds, and God would bring the rain and give you abundance. The things that God would touch what you’re doing. He would bless the work of your hands. You’ll be blessed coming in and going out. Your barns will be blessed. Everything you put your hand to will prosper. See, that’s really a blessing. Have you ever gone into anything, and it just falls apart? You go somewhere, and it just falls apart? Like “Is God calling me do anything? I can’t seem to have anything work. Everything is breaking down. Everything’s falling apart. Nothing is working. Lord, nothing’s working.” Well, part of God’s blessing is everything you put your hand on, what you touch, as you wait on God, He will begin to open those doors. Because that’s a man or a woman who’s correctly stewarding what He’s already given you.
And I’ve noticed, if you want more, steward what God has already given you. Faithful in the big things then He will give you more? No? What does the Bible say? Faithful in the little things, and God will give you more, and he’ll add to those of whom He can trust.
I did say this earlier, and I want to be careful because it’s not always true, but in the course of Scripture (I can show you in the Old Testament and the New Testament) that poverty can be a result of disobedience. Poverty can be a cause of disobedience. I would say that for a lot of impoverished people in our nation that poverty is self-created, self-inflicted. Not all of it. Got it? Okay? No emails. Not all of it. He said if I’m poor, I’m cursed. No, I didn’t. Not at all. You can be tremendously blessed, but we can’t rule out the fact that God will often remove things to get our attention. I remember there have been seasons where I said, “I can never get ahead. Everything is breaking.” I know people who make at least double of someone else, but the person who makes a lot less is blessed and has no financial issues and life is [fine]. But this other person has so much and [everything is wrong], because it’s not what you make, it’s what you spend. It’s what goes out. It’s how we steward the money that God has given us.
And God is able to bless us, but there’s a contingency. Realtors in the audience, lenders, you know what this is. Contingent. When you make an offer on a house, it’s usually contingent upon your loan going through, or it’s contingent upon the inspections, to make sure termites aren’t eating the house. So I will offer, but it’s contingent upon these things. God says, “I will bless you, but there are contingencies. Seek me with all your heart. Follow Me. Remove the idols. Put Me first. Give back to Me as I’ve given to you.” There’s always a season there of testing.
And I love Proverbs 11:25:
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Prov. 11:25)
It’s like what Jesus said: it’s better to receive things. No? Come on, I’m trying to wake you guys up this morning. It’s better to give than to receive. Now, as a fellow believer, I know this is a struggle because things start going on up here: “Well, how are we going to make this payment? I don’t see how this is going to work. I’ve got to save.” And we start to second guess things. I’m going to get to this in a minute, hopefully, to help you out. But on your notes, there’s something there that says, “God Thoughts” and a line. You see that?
God Thoughts: ____________________________
As I was going through this message this week, I thought, you know what? God might speak to some of you in these areas on these points, so if there’s something there that really stands out, write that down. I believe God is going to steer some of you in the right direction, maybe get you back on track. So if you feel something like, “Yes, I need to start giving, maybe not financially, but I need to start giving of myself more abundantly. I need to be more available. I need to stop being so stingy,” write that down and note it and pray over it this month. I’ve haven’t done that in sermons in a long time, but I felt this week that in this area, it’s good to isolate this money issue. And here’s why it’s so important. Money is up there, in the eyes of most people—even though it’s not even close, it’s not even on the same radar—but it’s like money becomes their god. It can buy me comfort, convenience, I can get more. So throughout the Bible, money is the big thing that is often competing with God.
I could preach a whole sermon on this (I won’t), but I’ve seen so many believers struggling financially, and soon as they make it—that good job in the Air Force, or wherever it is, six figures, they’re doing great—guess what? Guess where God goes as they’re pursuing these things? I talk to young men who have great jobs, making great money, six figures, and they’re like, “Shane, man, I’ll have time later. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got do this for ten years, put some money in retirement, then I’ll get to my kids and my marriage.” No, by then you’ll be too late. You see how it competes? It will draw us away. That’s why Jesus said you cannot serve both God and the god of this world. You cannot serve both God and mammon, which is sustenance, money, things. One of those things has to go. It’s a struggling match. There’s something inside of us. I’ve not mastered this. It’s something where you get back on track and say, “God, it’s all yours anyway.”
This came to my mind three times now, and I was trying to save it, but I guess I’ll just let you know now. What we’ve done in our past—I shared it before, but some of you haven’t heard this—when we first got married, (and I’m going to talk about the tithe in a minute, don’t worry, I’m getting there) we decided to give 10 percent of whatever the gross is. Not the net after taxes, the gross. So it’s the second-highest bill we pay after our house payment. We started that before we even had a home. So then we started to build our life around that concept: “God, this is this is yours.” And when we went to purchase a home, I remember the lender said, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. That’s not a bill. You can qualify for this home.” Oh no, no, we can’t make it with that. “No, that’s not a bill. The bank doesn’t look at that. Tithing, giving, that’s not a bill. Look what you guys could buy.” You know, all these homes on the west side, four thousand square feet with a pool (back when the market was really good, 2008 or 2009 or so).
But our whole life was built around that. So it’s more than a car payment or two. It’s what we give first to God. So it has to hurt a little bit. Now that’s not a rule for everyone. Whatever God has purposed in your heart to give as a cheerful giver, but if it doesn’t cost me anything, it doesn’t mean much to God. So we said it would be our first primary bill, it’s back to God, as a family. And so our life has been able to build around that area. However, if you’re coming into this little later, and that can’t happen—most people live above their means. Amen? You know what “above your means” is? It means like, “What are we going to do this month? We’ve got to scramble [to pay the bills].” We live above our means instead of below our means.
I’m going to talk about this in a little bit. If you have thoughts on tithing, because tithing, as you know, if you study the Bible, is not a New Testament command. But I’m going to get to that in a minute. Let’s read Luke now:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. (Luke 6:38)
So it’s this image of giving, as we give, it will be given to us. And don’t just think, “Oh, here’s $100.” Think of “Here’s my time.” Many of you go to the hospital homes, and you serve there, or you serve around the community, or you give to others. It’s this whole area of giving, giving resources, giving things. I know people who have given cars away. Give of your possessions, and it will be given back to you. Or give of your time, give of your resources. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” In other words, God will bless you abundantly and pour things back into your lap.
And in the New Testament model, I believe, and of course in the Old Testament, it’s like God gives, and then what you do with that, if you steward it well and you give others, God gives you some more. And then you steward it well, and you give to others, and God gives you some more. And then you steward it well, and God says, “See, I can trust you. I can trust you with My resources.” Had He just dumped everything on you at once, it might destroy you. But other people God sees that they’re going to be stingy. They get it, and they hold it, and that’s all they’re going to get because God blesses a giving heart. We get our mind set on dollar signs and how much. God doesn’t look at the amount. He can create $1 billion like that. He looks at where our heart is at.
If you said, “Okay, Shane, how could you sum up this message? You’ve got one minute left,” how I would sum up this whole message is: Does money have a hold on you? Is it your God? Is it idolatry? Are you working for it and hoarding it and saving it? It’s all about holding something that’s not really yours. Or is it about stewarding: Lord, what do you want me to do with this money? People make excuses—at least, I did for many years in my twenties—well, they just want me to sell my house, give them everything, and go live out in the desert. No, I believe God wants you to take care of your family, to have a home, to provide for them, but within a certain amount of means, to also in that freedom to be able to give.
And we also see here the principle of reaping and sowing:
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)
This is the principle of reaping and sowing. You can trust God in this area. Whatever you sow—you know how farmers sow seeds in the ground—whatever you sow, you’re going to reap. So we see that in this area of giving as well.
And then Matthew 6:2:
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:2)
So now we have a picture here of somebody who’s going to give, but they want everyone to know they’re going to give, and they post it on Facebook. They’ll have it come up in the conversation: “Do you know what I did this week?” You did? And they’ll announce it. They’ll tell people. But God says, “You’ve got your reward, there you go.” The flesh loves self-promotion. The praises of other men is your reward.
But I want to point out something here because sometimes rewards get a bad name in the Bible. People say, “Well, you shouldn’t do it for reward,” but Jesus says there are rewards. I think if your heart is right there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I look forward to rewards from Christ,” whether you throw that all back down at His feet, or whatever it is, there’s something that the Bible wants us to know about receiving our reward. “I tell you they have received their reward.”
So we see indications throughout the New Testament that you will be rewarded. But see, you don’t do it just for the reward. The reward is a byproduct of an obedient heart. Something in my home we do sometimes is called “the vegetable reward.” I say, “Kids, see in the refrigerator? When all these vegetables are gone in the next four or five days, you’ll each get five dollars, and I’ll take you to get a treat.” Team effort. That’s a reward. See, I think we all realize that no one has pure perfect motives. If you do things perfectly and purely, your heart is so right, let me know after the service. I would love to interview you. There’s a reward that God throws out there and says, “Listen, you will be rewarded for what you do.”
And then it keeps going in Matthew:
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly. (vv. 3–4)
It’s this attitude that gives, it’s unannounced, they’re sensitive to what God is doing, and God begins to open doors for them. You might look at many people and say, “Wow, they’re so blessed,” but you don’t realize how much of a giver they are. You don’t see the giving. That’s why we have to be very careful and not be too judgmental if we don’t know what’s going on. There’s a best-selling author, pastors a large church; I won’t say his name because some people think he’s a false teacher (but others don’t see that). Long story short is he gives back 90 percent of his book sales and different things and lives off the 10 percent. The irony is that all these people who like to throw jab shots at him never mention that. I don’t know any false prophets that are going to do that. We have to be careful in this area when God begins to bless.
Again, remember your God thoughts. Is God speaking to you in any area this morning on this topic? I’m not going to keep mentioning that; I just want to give you that last time.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8)
A stingy Christian is an oxymoron. Have you ever heard that? “Well, he’s a good stingy Christian.” I mean, we of all people should be the most giving. Look what Christ gave us. Freely given, freely receive. For those of us, look what was given to us even this morning by the Word of God, by worship, and just coming together. So, freely we’ve received this morning, why not go and freely give, like to the hospital homes, where people will go later today, or with the homeless ministry, where we have people tonight bringing food. Give back. Freely give back. That’s how you’re going to grow spiritually. Woe be to that person who just comes on Sunday, sucks it in; downloads podcasts, sucks it in; listens to the radio and sucks it in; reads commentaries and sucks it all in; reads their Bible and sucks it all in. They’re getting very fat spiritually, but that’s not healthy because that’s often a sign of a Pharisee too. They just keep taking it in, taking it in, to build themselves up. Pride puffs up. They’ve got to give it away. The only way you get rid of this idol is to give it away.
And to give, we must be available. To give back to others, we must be available. Maybe this morning God is asking for more availability from some of us. This is not going to happen, but I wish. If I can get everyone to just disconnect their TV and call the company to cancel their service, you’d be stir-crazy at home. You’d be bored to death. So see, we have the time. We can be available. This “I’m just too busy” usually means “I have things to watch later; I have things to do later.” It’s really about prioritizing our time. He says here give back. Freely you’ve been given, give back, and God will bless that.
And then we look at 2 Corinthians 9:7
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
That’s what I talked about earlier today, what my wife and I decided to do. As givers, you shouldn’t do it reluctantly: “Oh, that sermon made sense. I guess I have to do it.” Or “I can’t believe this. This is a lot of money. Why does God want this?” Why does God want what? You see, it’s not God wanting. Do you think God needs our money? What’s it about then? It’s releasing that idolatry, releasing things that hold us. So he wants us to give what he’s purposed in our heart, not reluctantly, not under compulsion. What’s “under compulsion”? You feel pressured, you feel pushed. That’s one reason why we don’t pass the plate here. We don’t take a time for offering. Many churches do. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. I don’t have a thought on it other than it doesn’t feel comfortable; it doesn’t feel right, at least to the core team here when we started the church. God will bring his givers. A giver will say, “Where do I give? How do I give?” We don’t need to pass it around and emphasize it.
Now again, it’s not bad if churches do that. It could be a wonderful time of worship for them, and they want to give, but I know a lot of people that are like, “Here we go. Ugh.” Even when I would go to church. People would know I would give a check or mail in a check, and they would watch me every week: “Is he giving? I better look like I‘m doing something. Here’s a dollar.” It’s under compulsion. And I remember when we first started the church, I had a couple people say, “Shane, you’ve got to pass the plate. You’ve got to do that. The church is not going to do good financially. You’ve got to do that. How are they going to know to give? This is disastrous.” And from day one (and in September it will be nine years) there’s never been a lack. There’s never been a financial crisis.
Now that doesn’t mean God might say, “Okay, hotshot, let’s take you through this difficult season.” But we’ve always had the idea of a church that saves and spends wisely. We don’t take on big building projects. You know this whole campus was just paid off in the summer. And we want to steward things well. People would drop off $10,000 checks, $15,000 checks, $20,000 checks, $30,000 checks. They would drop them off at the office or come in and talk to our treasurer without saying anything. They would say things like, “We just feel that God led us to do this after we sold our home,” or property or whatever. Got put something on their heart, and they were a cheerful giver. They loved it. I thought, can you imagine somebody else giving $30,000? They would be crying, “God, no, I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.” That’s a lot of money to most of us. I mean, that is really good.
But God will put things on the heart of people. Read the autobiography of George Mueller. He never asked people for anything, and God funded his orphanages. I think in the 1800s it was $10 million. I don’t even know today what that equates to. I mean, food trucks would break outside the orphanage. Milk trucks would break down outside the orphanage. A baker would get up at midnight and start baking and baking and bring it in. And God would just bring in all these things. It’s a way of trusting God. Now he was a little riskier than I would be. There are some people with just nothing for the month, and then they’ll start over fresh the next month. I think having a savings account is okay and being a wise steward of your investment. The Bible talks about saving in barns and preparing for lean seasons and different things. It’s what God is doing in your own heart. So don’t feel pushed, don’t feel manipulated, and don’t feel threatened, but do try to keep a commitment to something.
Now here’s what most Americans, Bible believing Christians—at least according to a recent survey—most Christians have decided that 2.5 percent of their income is best; 2.5 percent is what most people give. Any idea where entertainment is on that scale? Way more than that. All other items in our life are way over our giving, overall. Granted, some people give, and people don’t know about it. They take food to widows, they give people rides, they sponsor a missionary. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about how pew surveys and different surveys can kind of gauge. Most people give 2.5 percent of their income.
But a cheerful giver looks forward to writing a check or to giving. I’ve found, too, when we first started the church, I read a lot of articles on this, and at first it didn’t make a lot of sense, but it does to me. We don’t necessarily do this, but there’s something out there where a lot of churches won’t promote someone to pastor or elder or even deacon unless they are consistent givers. Now people say, “Well, you shouldn’t look at tithe records. You shouldn’t look at my giving records.” True. But if you’re called to be a leader in the church, one of the qualifications of the leaders is not to be greedy “for filthy lucre,” I think the King James says. Greedy. Not to be greedy. So how do you know that unless you look at their giving? If you have somebody who says, “Hey, this person, he could be a good future deacon or maybe an elder in a few years.” They work at Aerospace, and they make probably $130,000–140,000 a year, but they don’t give anything, they don’t believe in giving, they don’t trust the church (that’s a biggie). Well, how are they going to be in a position for leadership if they’re not even exercising that important element at home in their own practical life?
So see, you do have to look at a person’s character, and often, givers are sign of a healthy heart, if people are giving of their resources, even if it’s a little bit. That’s why Jesus said, “You see that widow? What she put in—that two little mites, it’s just a little bit—she gave more than all those people giving in their abundance.” So see, again, we look at the amount. But God sees the heart.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” You guys ready to get a little controversial? Malachi 3:10:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty.
And I believe we can still test God in this area.
“And see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)
“Test me in this.” Let me clear up the confusion, briefly. This could be a whole message on tithe, but I won’t have time to do the whole message on tithe. But tithing was an Old Testament principle. People would give one-tenth—there are other offerings they would give as well, such as firstfruits, but for the sake of the tithe, they would give a tenth of everything. But the tithe was how they would keep the storehouse, the temple, up to date with the Levitical priesthood and keeping everything going. People would be required to give a tenth. That’s where the tenth comes from. We even see it when Jesus talked about it in the New Testament. He said, “You give well. You give a tenth,” of cumin, the different things that they were tithing, the herbs. They would bring in a tenth of everything, even when Jesus lived.
So now we get into the New Testament, and what happens is people say, and rightly so—I don’t have a problem with it; we’re not under the law. We don’t have to give 10 percent, which I don’t disagree with that. But what I found, the irony is, it’s always the people who don’t want to give. See, if it’s coming from a spirit-filled believer who is giving abundantly, I could buy it a little bit more. But it’s always that person, “Brother, I don’t have to give.” No, you don’t have to give 10 percent; you’re not locked into that. But that shouldn’t be the question. It should be “Lord, how can I give? Where can I give? I want to be a cheerful giver.” And for some that 10 percent is a good number. It was an Old Testament number; we use it in our own family because it hurts. We have to prioritize a little bit. What is first? What comes first?
Now again, that’s not for everyone. I would never say you have to give 10 percent. God might have you at 5 percent. Or if you’re in a difficult season, maybe nothing right now. Here’s five dollars. It’s all I can give. It’s not about that. Or other people could be in a higher bracket. See, it’s all about being a cheerful giver. I know there are people, and I don’t know why they tell me, but they’ll say, “I wish I could give more, but I’m preparing for retirement.” I know what they’re saying, but the best way to prepare for retirement is actually to trust God and to give.
When I left 24-Hour Fitness, I gave up stock options and retirement. I had to start all the way over. I just started a retirement account five or six years ago, fresh. Is social security going to be there for me? Well, just so you know, my kids asked me yesterday, “Are you ever going to retire?” I don’t plan to. To me, I’m not going to retire—and do what? I mean, I’m going to do what God’s called me do as long as I can, until I take my last breath. But I see what people are saying. So I understand the fear there. But who are we trusting in? Why not back off retirement a little bit and trust in God? God, You lead me, You guide me. Let me put this into you. But I’ve also told people who are giving too much, when they’re hurting financially, I say, “Listen, you don’t need to give that much. If your family is hurting financially right now, provide for that family. Make those car payments. Get some food. Get some clothes on the kids. Take it to God. You don’t need to feel forced to give. Take a season of rest and a break in that area.”
But if God is challenging them and wanting them to give in the midst of that, I don’t want to upset that either. You see how that works? It’s not like “you have to do this, you have to do that.” I say take it to God. I know a God who, when you pray and you say, “Lord, show me,” and you’re sincere, He will show you. He will guide you on what is best for you. I can tell you story after story after story where people would begin to give in their lack, and God would bless them with something. As a church, we’ve been fortunate enough to probably give four, five, six cars to people, and it’s amazing. Every time there are tears, and most of the time they’ve been faithful givers. We didn’t know; nobody knew. It’s not that expensive. I mean, you can find a good car for $2,000–$3,000, a reliable car.
One gentleman I knew, I watched him, it was a black man I met at a conference. I got him a job. This is last summer, I think, and I just watched him. He was faithful at the job. He would take a bus for an hour, get on these different transitions to make the jobsite in Lake LA. Now that’s commitment. He would come back, get off the bus, get home, same thing. Hard worker. I talked to the guy who hired him, who said he was a hard worker. We found a good deal on a car, I think it was $1,500. Got him the car. He was excited, crying. Couple weeks later he had to move back to Texas to help his mom. He gave the car back, and said, “Give it now to someone else who needs it.” That’s how God works. He blesses beyond what we can even imagine or fathom. But if God is not blessing, don’t become disgruntled.
So I hope that settles it for you. The tithe is not an obligation. Our call is to support the work. It’s not have to, it’s want to. For most people, and if you want a good number, I would encourage you to consider 10 percent. But, Shane, I can’t do that right now. No, maybe prepare for that and start to minimize other bills and sponsor kids. There are good organizations out there where you can sponsor; most of your money goes directly to the children. Get rid of that hold that money can have on you, that it can have on all of us.
So set priorities, be free from the love of things. God looks at faithfulness. Test God’s faithfulness. God said this is a time you can test Me. Test Me. Bring everything into the storehouse. Bring what you have. Test Me in this. I will give you more. I’ve never seen God let a person down who is giving to God and giving to God and giving to God, and God will begin to bless them. Sometimes He might test them. Sometimes there might not be a blessing right at the end of that rainbow. But it’s faithfulness He’s looking at. Why would we want to give less? So I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, but most people say, “Shane, we’re not under the law; we don’t have to give 10 percent.” They don’t give. That’s a wonderful excuse. A wonderful excuse for those who don’t want to give. No, you’re not under that. You don’t have to, but I guarantee there is something wrong in your spiritual heart if there’s not a giving heart there. Shouldn’t a Christian be a giver? Widows in need, orphans, families in need. We should be on the lookout, looking for things.
There was an interesting article, and I knew this would be a question in some of your minds, so I thought it might be good to end with this: “Seven Reasons Why People Don’t Give.” And I’m not going to cover all seven, I’m just going to pick out a few here. Number one, they don’t know why they need to give, and they don’t see why they need to give. So hopefully I’ve explained a little bit of that to you. At this church, for example, people are coming to faith, marriages are being restored, missionaries are being helped, people are sharing the gospel around the world, we’re hosting children’s events, outreaches. You can see what’s going on here. There’s no secret. So that’s the majority of where giving goes. My giving primarily goes back into this church. What we do is we have an elder board, a board of elders, who sits down, and they look at the financial budgets, and they allocate certain amounts to certain things.
Now I’ve been at four different churches in the Valley that I attended— Hope Chapel, Grace Chapel for a season, Central Christian, and Calvary Chapel—and it’s interesting. Some people don’t give because they don’t trust the leadership, and I want to encourage you if that’s you, then you might want to wonder what you’re doing at a church. Not just this church, any church, because all those four churches I mentioned, I completely trusted the leadership, and what they were doing with the money. If you can’t trust those in leadership, it’s going to be hard to attend that church. So ask the questions if you need to. Find out what’s going on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong in having a critical heart.
So why you have to give is because the Bible, I believe, does command us to give. And there are difficult financial seasons; this article talks about it. I talked about that earlier. Number one reason why they don’t give is they don’t know how. Well, you can start by asking God. What does God want you to give? Does God want you to give a certain amount? Take it to God. That’s how you do it. And then you keep that as a commitment, right up there with Southern California Edison. Right up there with Waste Management. Right up there with Southern California Gas or the propane company or the mortgage company. You put it in the same category as a priority on other things.
Now here’s the biggie: they don’t know where the money goes. Well, let me tell you this. I called Randy, our treasurer, you can always talk to Randy. But here’s where a lot of church costs go. Most people know that most costs of a church go to administration, correct? The administration, the staff. The national average is between 45 to 55 percent of giving goes to administration. This church is at 20 percent. No, you don’t have to clap; I’m just telling you because it’s just maybe this season; as we grow it could increase a little bit more. But we have an operating budget of 20 percent. That’s it. To run the whole church. There’s a pie chart where you can see all that. Here we also do 15 percent to facilities. If you own a home, you probably know this isn’t free, correct? Now when we were doubling up and tripling up and sometimes quadrupling the payment, this was obviously higher often to save a lot of interest payment on this property. We had the whole facility to pay off, so that fluctuated, but it’s right around 15 to 20 percent of facilities. Propane can astronomical if we have the heater on every morning for morning worship. And VBS, and there are so many costs to that.
Many of you are now aware we now need a new what? Roof. So we let the congregation know, that hey, this roof is not cheap. I thought $40,000, but now it’s up to $60,000 to redo the roof on this entire building. I called different roofers, and we lost about half of them when I said we need Workmen’s Comp, we need liability insurance, and we need your license number. Because you want it done right and want it done the right way, and we’re leaving this for future generations. So, we’ll let you know, “Hey, here’s a need.” What my wife and I decided to do is if we get a little bit of a tax return, 10 percent off that is going to the roof. And if we have enough people to just say, “Hey, here’s a little bit extra, firstfruits or whatever, to put towards the roof,” that’s how we’re able to pay cash for that roof.
So that’s what facilities is. You name it. The remodel next door, fixing different things. And then as a church we try to—we been really good at this from the get-go—10 percent goes to savings. I don’t believe that we should just get by every month. I think there should be a cushion, an emergency fund, a savings. So of what comes in, we try to send 10 percent to savings.
Now something you might not know about, and this question never came up. This is a testimony to you guys, really, because I thought it would come up a few different times. But when we purchased the radio stations, I thought people would say, “Oh, why did they do that? Where’s the money coming from?” Well, here’s what you need to know. About six years ago, we started saving $3,000 a month. Every month, just “Lord, what do You want to do? Are You going to plant a church? Are You going to start a ministry? What do You want to do?” There’s a different corporation for this: Westside Christian Fellowship Antelope Valley. This is Westside Christian Fellowship Leona Valley. So we just kept saving and saving, and when the radio came up, guess what was already saved and ready? We have enough cushion to get us through. The radio station is now paying for itself. Didn’t even touch this account by one dollar. So you see that we’re just trying to steward these things.
And then the first question you have to ask, for example, while I’m on the radio topic, the first question you have to ask is: Is God doing this? Because I’m sure there are people out there who would rather see the money go elsewhere, and I don’t blame them. I wanted to too. Ask Dave. Ask the elders. I tried to get out of this three different times. I even told God, “I’m not doing this. I’m not doing this. I can’t manage a radio station. I’m not doing it. We don’t have a radio manager. I’m giving it up.” That week, a guy walks in who’s a radio manager, and he was considering moving here. He got it all going. He set it up. I’ve tried to get out of this many different times. I believe God wants to get that out there. Outreach. It’s what He’s called us to do.
But if I were to ask each one of you, here, take this, fill this out, “Where should the money go?” we would have a hundred different answers. So we want to be sensitive to what God is doing but also look at what He’s gifted the elders for. One elder has been at this church forty-five years. Two other ones have been going here quite a while. All these men are seasoned, and they steward their money well. Randy is the treasurer. He works at one of the Aerospace, and then of course myself. So you have an elder board that is trying to steward where God has us going. It’s not really a hard balancing act because you just look at what God is wanting to do. I think it’s a misconception—we didn’t just go out and buy a radio station; it was a year-long process, trying to get out of it three different times. I offered so low they got mad at me. They said, “No, let’s offer higher so we get it.” I don’t want to get it. I don’t want to get it. If God’s not in it, I don’t want to get it, and then we get it.
So see, that’s the first question. If you’ve been critical in this area about this—I don’t know if you have; nobody said anything—but keep that in mind: we asked first, “Is God doing it?” And then we try to line up accordingly. And then there’s 10 percent of what comes goes to missions, whether it’s a local, whether it’s overseas, whether there’s benevolence. There are so many different things. Then we have 10 percent that does go to outreach. We want to outreach. For example, if we put the sermon somewhere on radio or the internet, Facebook. We want to outreach with people. From Scotland to the United Kingdom to Europe to Asia, people are being reached with the gospel. We feel that’s part of our church. However, there’s a church in Lancaster I just talked to a few weeks ago, they don’t do anything for outreach. There’s no line item; there’s nothing.
Because their church is more small group, the focus is on the church, and so there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what God has called them to do. So we have to find out what direction God is leading us.
So that’s kind of how the money breaks up. Obviously that doesn’t lead to a hundred percent because I don’t have the exact pie chart, but that’s usually where it’ll go: 20 percent to administration (at least here, way below the national average); 15 to 20 percent to facilities; 10 to 15 percent to savings, and then other areas, missions, benevolence, local missions, overseas, outreach, different things. So when you give, that’s where it goes. It’s all like a family giving to keep this going. Children’s ministry. Who pays the lights? Who paid for the remodel next door? We all did. Who’s going to leave this for the future generation, from the fixed roof to the fascia board that needs to be fixed too and different things. See, we’re stewarding what God has given us. It doesn’t make a lot of sense—and I don’t have a problem saying this—if people are coming to the church, and we’re all being fed, we’re being built up, we’re being encouraged, our kids are growing, we should give back to the place we’re growing. I mean that just makes sense to me.
But in closing, let me leave you with this:
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. (1 Chronicles 29:14)
My whole application on the sermon is to take it to God and recognize everything we have is His. Lord, how do you want me to steward my vehicle, my home, my resources? And it’s hard because that mentality comes in where “it’s mine.” Well, remember, what do we take with us when we leave? Zero. I wanted to share with you statistics on when we leave our children a lot of money, it destroys them. When millionaires leave their children a huge inheritance without working for it, without earning it, without appreciating it, it destroys them. I see so many people “saving, saving, saving. Look, I’m going to leave each child $1 million when they turn twenty-two.” Put it in a trust, and they can’t touch until they’re about thirty-five. That’s what I did. You say, “That’s mean.” No, it’s not. Have them work their little tails off and appreciate what God has given us. There’s nothing wrong with that, to work hard, to appreciate.
That’s why the last generation was very frugal. It was a good generation, the World War II generation. They saw depression, they saw everything, and now we’re living in the entitlement society. Your future leaders, some of the senators think we’re entitled by the government. “From cradle to grave” they call it. You pay for my education, Government. You pay for my food, Government. You pay for everything, Government. Even if I don’t want to work, you pay for me. That’s not biblical, and that will ruin a nation. That’s not right, and you need to get your hands dirty. You need to work for what you have. That’s biblical.
But haven’t we switched? I’m entitled. No, we’re not, we’re blessed. We’re not entitled to anything. I think we should reward people, I think we should help students with their loans. How about have them work, and we match it? You say five, let’s give you another five thousand. There’s your ten for your school. See, you reward that work. You know how many school loans are defaulting? I’m getting on a whole new rabbit trail; I’m just going to stop. But the school loans are defaulting, all the bailouts that are defaulting. The billions and billions and billions of dollars we taxpayers gave the big corporations to bail them out, do you think we got all that back? They use most of that to go on retreats and spas and trips to Hawaii and different things. Entitlement. Be careful.
We’re going to go into a time of Communion, but before I have the worship team come up, I want to just tell you the number one reason why people don’t give. The number one reason is because the majority of them don’t believe. I think that’s twofold. Number one, they don’t believe in God, so of course they’re not going to give. I don’t blame you; I wouldn’t either. But let me encourage you. There is a God, He created you, He wants you to give your life to Him. He wants you to repent and believe. There is a God. So believe in the gospel this morning, that you’re lost without Him. You have to repent and believe. Say, “God, take me. Save me. Redeem me. I need You. I believe in your Son. I believe in the cross.”
But I also believe there’s a segment of believers who don’t believe that God is faithful. I mean, I’ll be honest, I’ll be transparent, that’s been a struggle of mine in the past. We don’t believe that God is faithful. Man, if I give this much, or if I start to give, God, I don’t know if You can handle this one. Have You seen my bills? Have You seen how much food my kids eat? Lord, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if You can handle this one. And we don’t believe.